You know that spring has arrived when the sports world converges on Augusta, Ga., to celebrate the start of the Masters. This year's event has the potential to be one of the most talked-about in history because of the field vying for the green jacket.
Scouring the odds leading up to Thursday's first round, it's clear that not even Vegas has a clue what will happen. The entire field was thrown a monkey wrench when Tiger Woods announced he wouldn't be able to participate due to back surgery.
Even without the world's No. 1 golfer, the 2014 Masters should have all the drama and pageantry we have come to expect from this incredible tournament.
Here is a look at the early odds for the tournament from Las Vegas, as well as some notes on key names to watch.
Full odds can be found at Vegas Insider
How fitting would it be for Phil Mickelson to win the 2014 Masters 10 years after capturing his first green jacket and finally ending the "major" curse that plagued him for years?
Of course, the odds like Mickelson a lot more than anyone who has watched golf in 2014 will. Lefty has played in nine events so far this year, with zero top-10 finishes, two missed cuts and an early withdraw from the Valero Texas Open at the end of March.
Kyle Porter of CBS Sports wrote in a preview for Lefty that Mickelson's risk-taking tendencies, combined with a deep field, don't make for a good combination this week:
Mickelson also finished tied for 54th with Sandy Lyle at the Masters in 2013. With as many golfers as there are in their primes (Scott, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan, etc.) I'm worried about Mickelson doing a bunch of Mickelson things down the stretch Sunday. There's a reason he finished third three times in a row here before finally winning it in 2004.
When you factor all that in, as well as the oblique injury that forced him out of the Texas Open, Mickelson doesn't have any momentum heading into Augusta. Taking him at 15/1 seems foolish.
Which star will have the best weekend at Augusta?
If Mickelson is an overrated favorite at 15/1, Jason Day could be an underrated favorite at 15/1. That seems funny because he's only played in four PGA Tour events so far this year, missed two cuts and is entering the Masters coming off a thumb injury
But sometimes a layoff can help free an athlete's mind. Day has also flirted with several major wins in the past, finishing in the top three at the Masters and U.S. Open four times since 2011. That breakthrough win is coming—sooner than later.
Now 26 years old, Day is the perfect age to put everything together. He's right in the middle of his prime and told Rex Hoggard of the Golf Channel that his injured thumb was doing just fine.
Adam Scott, last year's Masters champion, told Alan Shipnuck of Golf.com that Day's style fits Augusta perfectly because "he hits it high and long and straight."
It may not be a conventional choice given his recent history, but Day is definitely a name to keep an eye on this weekend.
If you are looking for new blood on the PGA Tour, 20-year-old Jordan Spieth is the name to watch.
As you would expect from a player so young, Spieth has been erratic this season. He's played in 11 events and has four top-10 finishes and two missed cuts, including at this past weekend's Shell Houston Open.
But when Spieth is right, you can see a young stud with the potential to be one of the four or five best players on the planet. He became the first teenager since 1931 to win a PGA Tour event after capturing the John Deere Classic last year.
Of course, this is Spieth's first time playing at the Masters. The course at Augusta can humble even the most hardened professional, so betting on someone who can't legally drink alcohol seems foolish.
There is something to be said, however, for youthful ignorance. That's not to say Spieth is unaware of what the Masters means, but the spectacle of the stage doesn't bother him the way it would someone older trying to capture an elusive title.
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